As there are still a number of brain-dead and/or entirely corrupt and/or entirely dishonest phonies who, even now, pretend they're unclear on what Occupy Wall Street's message is, Dahlia Lithwick smartly dispatches with their hooey today. Those folks aren't really worth our time.
But the fact is, the wholesale takeover of the American government by corporate "persons" --- and the (at least) 30 years of corruption and crapping on the middle class that has come with it --- has some 99% of us with a long, 30 year-list of complaints. They don't easily fit on one single bumper sticker. Ultimately, though, there seems just one thing that underscores all of those complaints: the end of any real accountability for every one of those corrupting influences and often criminal acts.
It has become almost unimaginable that flagrant lawlessness by the elite --- be they in government or corporatist America --- will ever be met with any sort of real accountability, any kind of accountability that might actually dissuade others from the same behavior in a way that might serve to reverse the ever increasing race to lower the bar below ground. That, I suspect, is the frustration at the heart of every Occupation and ever Occupier or those who support them in the country.
Two back-to-back interviews on Tuesday night's Rachel Maddow Show seemed to make these points as plain as could be, and one even offered some hope in the bargain. The first was with NY state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman who actually suggests he gets it, and is actually pursuing real accountability, with real investigations into criminality by the banks and the banksters before, during and after the explosion of the mortgage crisis. We'll see if he means it (or if he gets "caught" with a hooker first.) The second interview was with Constitutional attorney, Salon blogger and author of the new book, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful, Glenn Greenwald.
Key points on accountability from both interviews are excerpted below, and the full videos of each are embed below that. Both are worth reading and/or watching in full if you haven't. It's about the accountability, stupid...
So, we're digging in and think we can do more. We think we're going to be able to obtain real meaningful relief. There are 11 million whose homes are underwater not just in Arizona but all across the country. We think we have to hold accountable to people who caused this disaster. And just as important, as I say, we got to get this out in the open so they can't rewrite history. I mean, Mr. Romney's comments, "we should just let things hit bottom" --- this is the same sort of deregulatory mania that they were dishing out in 2005 and 2006. That didn't work so well for the economy.
RACHEL MADDOW: Did this catastrophe happen because --- as far as what you have been able to determine so far --- because deregulation proceeded to a point where banks could act legally in a way that was nevertheless, dramatically, fiscally irresponsible? Or are we looking at a case of potential illegal behavior --- behavior that was against the law despite the fact that they had been so deregulated?
SCHNEIDERMAN: Well, that's why you have an investigation. There may well have been a combination of the two. There's no question that they dismantled a lot of the safety mechanisms that have protected our markets for a long time. But, you know, we're also looking at the conduct of individual institutions and individuals to see if there were misrepresentations made, to see if there was fraud committed, to see if criminal acts were also a part of this. And that's what [Delaware Attorney General] Beau [Biden] and I are looking at and we're determined to follow it through until we get the relief the homeowners need and hold accountable the people who caused this.
MADDOW: That issue of holding people accountable is a guttural instinct in American politics now because we know the fiscal crisis was a manmade crisis. We know that this was something that people did the wrong thing and thereby hurt the entire country. And the country is still paying but nobody paid for what they did. That is --- that's just a base raw feeling that's driving "Occupy Wall Street" protests right now --- but I think it's also driving a lot of anger in the country, left, right and center.
You and Beau Biden have jurisdictional opportunities here because of where institutions are incorporated that had a lot to do with these problems. Is there more that could be done at the federal level right now, starting now in 2011 that hasn't been done? Are there demands that should be made both of the administration and the Congress in terms of ways they can hold Wall Street accountable?
SCHNEIDERMAN: Well, it's challenging for the president because the Republicans in Congress have essentially openly declared they'll do things that they know hurt the American people just to prevent him from getting a win. But as you say, we do have jurisdiction, because the mortgage-backed securities that brought down the country were all issued out of New York trust or Delaware trust.
We're pursuing it. And you're absolutely right. A lot of folks look at "Occupy Wall Street" and the other occupations and think they're fringe characters. I hear the same sense that we don't have one set of rules for everyone anymore, that people are not held accountable for misconduct. From every average American you run into, anywhere else, in a community hall meeting, in a diner, all over New York state, I'm sure all over America-- there is a sense that equal justice under law is no longer the rule for this country. And we got to get that back.
I mean, as much as the economic damage is terrible, for Americans to lose the sense that this is a country where law governs and you're not above the law and you're not below the law --- I mean, you know, the law applies to everyone. The sense of accountability is one of the key motivators for our investigation and there are other A.G.s who are coming our way. I think there are actually going to be quite a few investigations before this is over.
MADDOW: As New York state's attorney general, am I right that your office is quite near the Lower Manhattan "Occupy Wall Street" encampment?
SCHNEIDERMAN: It is, right across the park.
MADDOW: When you --- when you look --- from what I hear you saying right now, my sense is when you look at the folks out there protesting every day, you have some sympathy for what they're doing?
SCHNEIDERMAN: I, you know, I see them as part of a --- they're the tip of a much bigger iceberg. I spend a lot time traveling around the state. I have 13 regional offices. And I assure you that if anyone who thinks the American people have gotten over their anger at the bubble and the crash, over their sense of betrayal that the fundamental American idea of equal justice under law has, you know, really been let go by the wayside --- they're wrong. People are mad. People want --- not because they're hostile or vicious, they just want to know there's one set of rules for everyone. I don't hear that much different in most of the "Occupy Wall Street" folks from what I hear everywhere else in the state as I travel around.
MADDOW: New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman-- thank you for taking the time to talk to us tonight. Again, I know you don't do this often. I really appreciate it.
SCHNEIDERMAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: And I would just say that in terms of looking at accountability issues and Wall Street and where "Occupy Wall Street" goes and that feeling in the country-- keep an eye on New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and also Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden. Set Google alert on these guys. Just watch what they do. That's all.
GLENN GREENWALD, AUTHOR, "WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR SOME": Look at the last decade of --- when you see enormous numbers of crimes being committed, egregious crimes by the most powerful people in the society --- the creation of worldwide torture regimes, spying on American citizens without the warrants required by criminal law, an aggressive attack on Iraq, various aspects of obstruction of Department of Justice, the destruction of evidence, the courts and the 9/11 Commission ordered to be preserved.
And the private sector, you see massive fraud precipitating the financial crisis, mortgage fraud on a systemic level, telecoms participating in the illegal spying --- none of those, they are not bad policy decisions. They are not immoral acts. Those are crimes. None of them have led to meaningful criminal investigations, yet alone criminal prosecutions or accountability.
And the reason is because we now are a country that explicitly argues that political elites and financial elites, private sector elites, should be immunized from the rule of law because all the things you pointed out were argued by Gerald Ford to justify the pardon of Richard Nixon. It created this precedent and this mindset that is now seeped into the private sector as well that the rule of law is only for what "Occupy Wall Street" calls the 99 percent.
MADDOW: And that is an important --- that last transition point, that it became not just something --- not just an unpleasantness to be avoided, but it became an active political good to insulate elites from accountability for the good of the institutions that they represent, for the good of the nation's stability, that justified all of the pardons of the Reagan administration officials after Iran Contra. It's what you say - you name a chapter, "Too Big to Jail" as opposed to "too big to fail," coming after our discussion with Eric Schneiderman, New York's attorney general who does not believe in too big to jail. How did it become an active political good to excuse wrongdoing rather than just bad to be avoided?
GREENWALD: Well, keep in mind, there's a big split on this question between media and political elites on the one hand and ordinary Americans on the other. So, as you pointed out, the pardon of Richard Nixon was something that triggered revulsion among the American population. You even listen to it now and you recoil at the idea that this criminal, this clearly fragrantly criminal individual, Richard Nixon, was simply protected by virtue of a status, at the same time that hundreds of thousands of Americans were being prosecuted for trivial offenses.
And so, what you see is that there's an elite class that supported that pardon and it continues to say, we cannot have investigations of the Bush torture regime. It was good that Casper Weinberger was pardoned because he's a good man who doesn't belong in prison.
And so, you see this elite class whose interest it is to maintain this elite immunity constantly arguing for it, whereas if you look at polls, it's not just the pardon of Nixon that triggers revulsion. At the beginning of the Obama presidency, large numbers, large percentages of American, majorities, wanted investigations into what the Bush torture scheme, whether the eavesdropping program, whether the obstruction of justice were criminal and illegal because inculcated in the American mind is the idea that we are all equal before the law. And it's because we're not you see citizen anger and loss of faith and legitimacy of political institutions.
Between the thoughts in those two interviews, that just about nails it. That's where we are. That's why we're here.
Both 10/25/11 interviews are posted in full below...